Science Education & Outreach

There are multiple pathways for PhD scientists within science education and outreach careers, across a broad realm of industries including K-12 educational institutes, teaching-intensive academic positions, museums, nonprofits, and government, and at research institutions. Positions can involve activities like teaching internship programs, guest experience, creation of innovative educational programming, event organization, and more. They are typically defined as needing to “wear many hats” in that you will most likely be in charge of many initiatives and responsibilities. Careers in Science Education and Outreach all highly value skills in written and oral communications, teamwork, cultural competency, flexibility, and creative problem solving. Trainees can further develop these skills through communicating their science to diverse audiences, mentoring and training junior scientists, and through more administrative tasks involving teams and event planning. Volunteering for graduate or postdoctoral committees, taking on an intern, or taking advantage of the myCHOICE internships are great avenues to gain this experience.

Examples of institutions where you could work in this field:

K-12 Educational Institutions
Teaching-Intensive Universities
Outreach Organizations

Examples of job titles that you might find at those institutions:

Professor, Teacher, Director, Lecturer

Professional societies that are relevant to this career category:

National Science Teachers Association, Association of Science-Technology Centers, National Science Education Leadership Association

Alumni Working in Science Education & Outreach

Patricia Ward

PhD Molecular Genetics Cell Biology 1999
Director, Science Exhibitions & Partnerships, Museum of Science and Industry

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
I did not intentionally prepare for my museum career. I pursued a graduate degree and did post-doctoral research because of my deep interest in science and because I enjoyed doing basic science research. I got into museum work serendipitously, but it was my science training, experience and content knowledge that provided an entry point into this fascinating and rewarding career.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
As a department head, I am generally leading teams in the creative development and design of exhibitions or other initiatives. Much of my work involves guiding these teams in the development of content and design plans, visitor experiences, learning objectives and overseeing the final production of exhibitions. Along with this work is the continual fostering and development of external and internal partnerships that synergize with our efforts to create meaningful and compelling exhibitions. I also have staff and budgets to manage, and internal museum business and administrative work.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding parts of my work are seeing the public enjoy and learn from the tangible products of our work–the exhibitions. I also really enjoy the broad array of topics and ideas that I am continually immersed in and learning about. There are always new challenges.

Heather King

PhD Integrative Biology 2012
Associate Project Director, Outlier Research & Evaluation

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
I took every opportunity to volunteer or otherwise gain experience in my chosen field. Being an IGERT trainee helped with this but I did a lot outside that scope, too.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
Research, synthesis, client relations, writing, public speaking, planning and organization of resources and people.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
My colleagues are very good to work with and I look forward to jointly tackling our research questions each day.

Gregory Davis

PhD Developmental Biology 2002
Associate Professor of Biology, Bryn Mawr College

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
When I was a graduate student and a postdoc I saw my future self in a more research intensive position and didn’t really know much about small liberal arts colleges, especially ones in which the faculty maintain active, smaller scale research programs. When I got the job I was really happy that I had spent time mentoring undergraduates and acting at a teaching assistant, but in hindsight a more active role in teaching, especially as a primary instructor, probably would have helped me in those first couple of years when I faced a fairly steep learning curve.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
A typical day involves prepping for and then teaching for an hour or two, a bit of lab work, meeting with students from my courses, meeting with the students working in my lab, maybe a departmental or committee meeting, and perhaps writing a letter of recommendation. It can get pretty crazy, there’s no doubt, but in the end I do love the mix of teaching and research, especially when they intersect, which they often do.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Although working with undergraduates exclusively can sometimes make me feel like I’m reinventing the wheel, the good part is that undergraduates are often naively enthusiastic, really relishing the promise of discovery and reminding me of why I went into science in the first place.